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Speech by H.E. William Ruto EGH, EBS, Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya during the 20th EACO Congress at KICC, Nairobi

Dr. Fred Mating’i, Cabinet Secretary, ICT, 

Her Excellency Leocadie Nihazi, ICT Minister, Burundi  

Amb. Joseph Bangurambona, Director General – ARCT, Burundi and EACO Chairman 

Prof. John Nkoma, Director General, TCRA 

Maj. Francois Regis Gatarayiha, Director General, RURA 

Mr. Patrick Mwesigwa, Representing, Executive Director, UCC, Uganda

Mr. Elijah Biar Kuol, Director General Administration & Finance, Ministry of Telecommunication & Postal Services, Government of South Sudan

CEOs and representaives of  EACO member institutions,

Mr. Abdulkarim Soumaila, Secretary General, African Telecommunication Union 

Mr. Marcelino Tayob, Senior Advisor, ITU Africa Regional Office, Representing the Secretary General of the ITU

Representative of the Director General of the Universal Postal Union 

Representative of the Secretary General of the Pan African Postal Union 

Delegates to the EACO Congress

Observers and participants

Members of the Fourth Estate 

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

It is my great pleasure to join you today at the official opening of the East African Communication Organisation's Congress. 

I thank Members of EACO most sincerely for choosing Kenya to host the 20th edition of the Congress. 

I also invite all our esteemed guests from the East African Community states and beyond to feel welcome to Nairobi. 

To the delegation from the Republic of the South Sudan, who are in attendance as observers, I extend a warm, brotherly welcome.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

EACO has achieved many encouraging milestones towards integrating the East Africa region through communications connectivity, which, in turn has brought manifold benefits. 

Without good a communications network, East Africans cannot conduct effective cross-border business. Consequently, there cannot be meaningful integration in the Community without effective connectivity among citizens. 

It is therefore gratifying to know that EACO is playing its part to realise this possibility.

As the captains of the Community's communications industry, I encourage you to spearhead and accelerate the opening up of the region by availing seamless communications connectivity to all our people. 

The first step in doing this entails the harmonisation of policies and the regulatory framework to create a single, greater East African market, bringing together over 120 million people and creating an attractive investment environment through integrated an integrated industrial governance system.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

East Africa, and indeed the entire continent must stop relying on donor support to finance development and shift to attracting investment to spur growth. 

This is the only way to achieve realistic growth and create employment opportunities for a growing population.

We must commit more resources to develop the communications subsector in order to increase mobile telephone penetration from 50.5 per cent to covering all people. 

Majority of our population reside in rural areas, which have traditionally been considered low business return areas by investors. 

This scenario poses a serious challenge; as you well know, there is a proven direct correlation between access to communication services and levels of economic development. 

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

With 40 per cent of the population unconnected, attainment of development goals in most countries becomes difficult. 

In addition, rural economic activities, and especially the agricultural value-chain, remain un-maximised, leading to continued rural poverty.  

Furthermore, connectivity brings access to other services. For instance, before the advent of mobile banking in Kenya, over 80 per cent of the population was unbanked. Access to credit was, therefore, very low. 

Mobile money transfer has accelerated commercial transactions, increasing economic productivity. 

Today, mobile money transfer handles over Kshs 670 billion annually, much more than any bank in the region has been able to accomplish.

Strengthening the Universal Service initiatives in each country, therefore, ensures connectivity for all people and accelerates progress towards optimising the region's economic potential. I therefore strongly urge you to pursue this initiative with greater vigour.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

Let us also encourage innovation in ICT to empower more people and optimise their lifestyles.

As the leaders of respective Community States put up social, political and economic structures to integrate the region, EACO has a vital role in providing the people with a seamless and borderless communication that enable cross-border interaction without physical, customs and other bureaucratic complications. 

This advantage can only become a reality when policy and regulatory mechanisms are laid down to substantially reduce regional connectivity tariffs. 

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

The present calling costs, roaming and data charges in the region are unsustainable, and lock out over 80 million mobile telephone subscribers from benefitting.

I believe it is important that this kind of a forum can address this issue so that the larger populace can benefit.

Since mobile roaming charges forms one of the topics for discussion at this meeting, I urge you to engage robustly on the matter and, at the end of the deliberations, resolve to make communication more affordable within the region.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

Presently, Africa is the world's most attractive investment destination. 

It therefore needs to lay down attractive legal and regulatory frameworks to exploit this unique opportunity. 

The theme for this Congress, 'Making Broadband Work' is more than apt. 

I urge governments and regulators in the region not to assign the building of communications infrastructure exclusively to the private sector; a public-private partnership framework is ideal, with governments identifying the provision of communications as a basic need, just like the transport network.

It is highly commendable that EACO has a permanent secretariat to monitor the implementation of its resolutions; resolutions are only good if they are faithfully implemented. 

Further more, the current EACO setup, incorporating public and private sector players is a model that is conducive to faster implementation of resolutions and realisation of targets. 

I encourage you to expand membership, and develop the organisation so that in time it becomes a professional resource pool where experts will be drawn to advise national governments on communications matters. This way, we will be able to devise homegrown solutions to our problems.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

The decision to add an exhibition component to the conference is a laudable strategy to involve the general public and spread awareness of the sector's importance to the region. 

I request you to kindly consider involving institutions of higher learning in future exhibitions to encourage innovation by technical students.

Kenya has embarked on a programme to impart ICT skills at the earliest stage of a child's learning to foster creativity and innovation in young people at various levels, and develop a strong competitive advantage in our human resource component.

It is worth noting that this conference will discuss the issue of migration from analogue to digital broadcasting, evolving of country broadband strategies, and national addressing system, among others. 

You are aware as a jubilee Government we are keen to see this happen as fast as possible.

As we all invest heavily in ICT development, we must also think thoroughly on the management of electronic waste that directly results from such investment. 

More critically, we must reject donations of used computers, which has become an avenue through which e-waste is exported out of the developed world into our countries. 

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

E-waste is a growing threat to our people's well being as they pose serious health and environmental hazards.

I urge governments to establish policies, laws and invest in infrastructure to address e-waste management.

Kenya, for its part, is developing an environmental management law to provide legislative backing for e-waste management. 

Banning counterfeit telephone handsets also helps to reduce electronic products whose short lifespan renders them a huge source of e-waste.

Before I conclude, I urge you as ICT  experts to ensure that the region and continent keeps up the pace in implementation of global communications initiatives. 

Majority of countries in the region, Kenya included, are behind in realising digital migration, IPV6 and national addressing systems.

 We must move fast so as to enhance global competitiveness as a region.

Finally, I pledge the support of the Government of Kenya to all EACO initiatives. 

Please count on us for unstinting assistance towards making EACO the driver of the region's ICT industry.

With these remarks, I have the pleasure and honour to declare the 20th EACO Congress officially open. 

I wish you fruitful deliberations.

Thank you and God bless you.  (Applause)